I have 4 bar melody that starts from a pick-up measure. If I write it the way it is, it's pretty simple, but I'd like to know how can it simplify it with repeats. I cannot think of a way.

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    I feel like an important question is WHY. It wouldn't make it easier for the performer; it would make it harder. It wouldn't make the process faster for you, since formatting the endings would take more time than copy/pasting. And it's unlikely to save a page of paper, since it would only save less than two measures, and if you need that to prevent a wasted page, you can probably do it by manipulating measures and margins. Commented May 14 at 1:40
  • Thanks, but there is a lesson to be learned here and that is "there is no good way and no reason". More confident now.
    – Nico M.
    Commented May 14 at 3:02
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    @NicoM. An important aspect about notation is that "shortcuts" such as repetition signs and voltas should be used only when they make sense. How that "sense" can be qualified is subjective, but it normally follows a priority rule: first, the player, then the writer/copyist/editor. Players must always be put in the best reading condition: if they're experienced enough, they'll be able to intuitively understand simple structures based on repetitions. While complex structures may be simpler/shorter to write and remember (but only once they've been understood), they may be more difficult to » Commented May 14 at 3:28
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    @NicoM. » understand, especially at first sight. A common rehearsal issue is when dealing with recursive structures/repetitions (unconventional or poorly noted DC/DS/Coda signs, etc.). A good musician will be able to intuitively understand the extended structure of repeated sections on their own, even while sight reading. Let them be able to assume a possible structure (even if they may assume too much) from an explicit notation. Asking them to understand a convoluted structure may only lead to confusion and issues in reading and rehearsal. If it's just to save a few bars, it's not worth it. Commented May 14 at 3:28

2 Answers 2


Well, you could use voltas, brackets that mark certain measures as being played only on certain repeats. They're a useful tool worth knowing about.

Image of first and second voltas from Bruno Fugo Advocacia

But in this case they would save you all of one measure, at the expense of making the music harder to follow. Voltas are best applied to longer segments, four repeated bars minimum, ideally eight or more.

There's nothing wrong with writing out a line or even a whole section multiple times. I'm a programmer, and I've caught myself thinking this way, that all redundancy must be quashed—if that's you too, unlearn it! Human performers aren't machines, jumping around takes time and breaks up thoughts. Music repeats itself all over the place, and above all it should be readable. Never be afraid of writing out a short segment again.


In ABCjs, the code looks like

X: 1
T: Question 135990
M: 4/4
L: 1/16
K: Fmaj
D,2d2 |: ^cdcB ABAG ^FGAF A2D2 | D^CB,A, CB,A,G, DCB,A, |1 G,2d2 :|2 G,2=C2 |

And the result looks like

ABC repeats result

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    Buuuuut—the extra bar line? Commented May 14 at 1:36
  • @AndyBonner I couldn’t remember the standard.
    – Aaron
    Commented May 14 at 2:18
  • Thanks. I'm not familiar with code. What do you mean by that? And also what is ABCj telling?
    – Nico M.
    Commented May 14 at 2:58
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    @NicoM You specified ABC-notation as a tag to your question. ABC is a computer programming language for creating notated music. It sounds like that tag should be removed from your question?
    – Aaron
    Commented May 14 at 3:07

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